How to quit your job

I’m always super excited for my friends when they’ve landed a new job. Starting a new chapter in your life is awesome and exhilarating. But prior to getting started at your new gig, you have to quit your current job. Before you tell your boss and coworkers, “See ya, suckers! I’m out of here!” consider the following steps.

Define the tone of your message

If you’re leaving your old job on a…well…less than pleasant note, it’s tempting to go out in a blaze of glory – the kind of resignation that will go down in history and all your coworkers will tell your story for years to come. While that sounds super fun, there are a few things to ask yourself first.

  • Will you ever need or want a reference from any of these people? If you’re leaving on a sour note, you probably don’t have a good relationship with your boss, so it’s doubtful that you’d ever expect a reference from that person. But you might want a letter of recommendation from others across the company who did appreciate your work or found your skills valuable. Running out of the office with your middle fingers waving probably won’t entice them to refer you for a future position. Well, unless you know that kind of exit is something they wish they could do too.
  • Is there any chance you’ll want to come back to this company? Right now, the idea of working for this company sounds horrible, but five or more years from now, you might want to go back. It’s safe to assume that whatever legacy-building resignation you provided will be well documented on your personnel file.
  • Is it possible you’ll work with any of them in the future? Most career fields are kind of “small world,” meaning once you’ve been in a particular field, like HR, for a few years, you start to notice that you hear all the same names and players throughout the rest of your career. I’ve had several coworkers with whom I worked at one company end up at another company I worked for not long after. This happens all the time. People talk – do you want people sharing with a future employer or prospective employer what kind of antics you displayed on your day of resignation?

No matter how you answered the questions above, or how big of an ass-hat your boss is, I highly encourage you to avoid the blaze-of-glory resignation.

However, if you do decide to do something memorable, please film it and email it to me.

What to say

When I was leaving one of my first jobs out of college, it was for a job opportunity that I was SO super excited about. I really loved the company I was at, but wanted to go in a different direction with my career and I thought this new job was the perfect stepping stone. While I did think about how to give my notice of resignation, I’m confident that I didn’t do a good job. I know that I tried to express my gratitude to my boss – who was awesome – while also explaining that this was a special opportunity to work in the field I thought I wanted to be in.

A couple jobs later, I was much more prepared for how to properly give my notice.

If you’re a rockstar employee who has a good relationship with your boss and other leaders, they won’t want to let you go. To get around this, it’s imperative that you come up with bulletproof talking points.

First, I like to say something about how I’ve been “offered this amazing opportunity.” The way I say it, it sort of sounds like someone just called me out of the blue to offer me this job, instead of what actually happened: I looked for this job, fixed up my resume for this job, applied for it, had multiple interviews for it, negotiated and finally accepted. I like to make it sound like I was sought out by a special headhunter or recruiter because it doesn’t sound as disloyal.

Next, I like to emphasize how this new role is totally different than what I’m doing now, and something that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do unless I left to do it somewhere else. For example, I used to work for a financial services company. When I got a job offer for a healthcare company, I really emphasized how the work I wanted to do was tied directly to helping others live a healthier life – and I couldn’t do that in my current role or in any other role within the company since that wasn’t their focus.

Maybe your new job is something totally unrelated to what you’re doing now – that’s perfect and makes things super easy.

A friend of mine recently accepted a position with a new company and had to give her notice. She and I talked about her plan of attack. Someone had told her that she should claim that she’s just looking to change things up in her life because she was in a time of change – she had just gotten married. While this isn’t necessarily a bad explanation, it won’t hold water if your current employer tries to convince you to stay. Saying that you’re leaving because you just want some change can sound shortsighted, as if you’re making a decision based on nothing but a whim. Your current employer will shoot holes in this almost immediately.

Their rebuttal: how to stick with your plan

Look at you, being a rockstar and therefore getting called into your VP’s office so she can convince you to stay. While it’s incredibly flattering, you have to be prepared with those talking points we just talked about.

After you mention that you’ve been offered an amazing opportunity, your VP will tell you about all the amazing opportunities awaiting you at your current company. That’s awesome, you say, but then you hit her with the talking point about how this new role is totally different from what you’re doing now and unavailable anywhere within your current company.

Let’s say you didn’t take my advice and said the reason you were leaving was because you needed something new. Your current VP could say, “Lindsey, I think you’re making a rash decision right now – one that I think you’ll regret once the ‘newness’ has worn off. Plus, with all that change, I think you’ll find it comforting to have one stable thing in your life.”

Argh! That’s not what we want. That’s why you have to stick with something your VP can’t talk you out of. When I left my last job, I told my VP that I was really excited about this new role because it was an opportunity to do work I’ve ALWAYS wanted to do, and that I felt like I had to take advantage of the opportunity. My VP told me that she had done the same thing in her past, and after being there for a few months, she realized she had made a mistake. I told her that I appreciated her sharing that experience, but that I would always live with regret if I didn’t give it a chance. The next thing she said was that she understood, and that she hoped I’d keep the company in mind when I was ready to move on to my next role. Score! The dream situation is to have your current company hoping that you’d eventually come back, or at least they are open to it.

The most important thing is to avoid offending them. Stick to how this is all about you and your desire for what your next step is, not any shortcomings of the company. You might have a long list of shortcomings, but this probably isn’t the place to share them.

Do you really want to leave?

The last thing to think about is whether you really want to leave. For me, that answer has always been steadfastly yes, no doubt about it. By going through this process, you’ll hopefully have done a lot of thinking about why you want to leave and why you are excited about this future job. Aside from the normal fear of the unknown, did you uncover any other red flags or thoughts that have caused you to second-guess your transition?

I have a friend who applies and interview for jobs on a regular basis, even though he loves his current job. I think he does it for a couple reasons: 1) to find out whether he’s hire-able somewhere else and 2) to use his hire-ability and new salary offers in order to get raises at his current job. This tactic has worked for him on more than one occasion. I’m confident that when he’s going through the process of applying for jobs and interviewing, it really has nothing to do with a desire to leave his current job. It’s more about maximizing his current position, or making the hard decision to leave if his current employer doesn’t value him as much as a competitor would. While he doesn’t plan to leave, he still has to be prepared to leave if his current employer chooses not to give him the raise or promotion he’s asked for.

Receiving a job offer for a position you’re excited about it is one of the best feelings in the world. Sharing that news with your current employer is usually much less exciting. One last piece of advice: Even though a recruiter or hiring manager has made you an offer, nothing is official until they’ve sent you that offer letter and you’ve accepted. I wouldn’t start the resignation process with your current employer until you’ve received and signed your new offer letter. As far as notice goes, two weeks is the standard. I try to provide closer to three weeks, if possible. I also try to negotiate my start date at my new company so that I’ll have some time off in between jobs. This decision will depend on your comfort level of not receiving a pay check for that amount of time away from a job, as well as the situation for health insurance.


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